Caernarfon 2 Barry 0

BARRY Town United's make-or-break Phase Two got off to a rocky start on Saturday, as the surprise JD Welsh Premier League title contenders were beaten 2-0 by Caernarfon Town at The Oval.

For 66 minutes, nothing could split the sides, until goals from Sion Bradley and Nathan Craig unseated Barry at the top of the table, leaving victorious Connah's Quay Nomads to swoop in.

Nomads had trailed 1-0 at Newtown, only to rally to a 2-1 win and with The New Saints' visit to Bala falling victim to the weather, Andy Morrison's men now lead the league by a single point.

With Macauley Southam-Hales ruled out in the midst of transfer uncertainty and Chris Hugh on international duty with Wales' futsal squad in Moldova, manager Gavin Chesterfield gave a Barry debut to Rhys Abbruzzese on Saturday, with long-serving Paul Morgan also coming in at full-back.

Despite the enforced changes, Barry had a lot to offer in the first half at The Oval, creating some strong opportunities against a Canaries side they had edged by both home and away in Phase One.

Picking up where he left off before the winter break, Mo Touray showed real vision early to let in Kayne McLaggon, lifting the ball over the Caernarfon defence to gift-wrap his team-mate a chance.

Despite the high pace drawing him wide, McLaggon did well to pull the ball back inside, yet his low attempt would bounce and bobble just beyond the frame of the goal, keeping the score at 0-0.

Then, after Morgan did extremely well to frustrate and deny danger man Danny Brookwell, the talismanic Touray took aim from distance; his spectacular drive leaving goalkeeper Alex Ramsay a helpless spectator, only to rebound back off the advertising hoardings, a warning shot gone awry.

In what would be the chance of the half, McLaggon would later round Ramsay, after quality build-up play from both Clayton Green and Jordan Cotterill had smoothed the striker's path towards goal.

Unfortunately for Barry, McLaggon's neat touch to bypass the Caernarfon goalkeeper left the league's player of the month for December with too much to do and too great an angle to score.

After the break, the visitors threatened again, with Green floating a fine free-kick to an unmarked Luke Cooper, only for the marauding Barry centre-back to see his snap-shot saved at the near post.

Worryingly though, the home side were starting to up their game, with loan signing Leo Smith, a transfer window arrival from Wrexham, forcing a flying save out of Barry goalkeeper Mike Lewis.

Tails up, the Canaries would soon be ahead, with some real midfield wizardry from Danny Thomas setting up team-mate Sion Bradley, who then lashed a right-footed shot past Lewis from eight yards.

Unlike their previous visit to the Oval in late September, Barry now found themselves having to overturn a goal deficit, yet the hosts were far from through and looked to secure a killer second.

It came a little more than ten minutes later, when some sublime play from the skilful Thomas teed up Nathan Craig to power home; his pile-driving shot rippling the net to leave Barry adrift at 2-0.

A trio of substitutions would follow in short order, with Drew Fahiya, Tom Fry and Troy Greening relieving captain Cotterill, McLaggon and Jonathan Hood in what would be a final roll of the dice.

However, Barry were unable to claw their way back, leaving the Oval pointless for the first time this season and suffering a scoreline repeat of their 2-0 defeat in the JD Welsh Cup last campaign.

For manager Chesterfield, the task now is to rouse the troops, with Saturday's big game with Bala Town at Jenner Park offering an opportunity to continue the club's outstanding record on home turf.

Kick-off against the 2017 JD Welsh Cup winners is at 7.30pm and with Colin Caton's Lakesiders one of only two visiting teams to win at the ground in all of 2018, a tough but exciting test awaits.